Charcoal and grease stalactites – Kabuto, piss alley, Shinjuku

I arrived in Tokyo this last year to produce the Ema Show.  I have artists paint Japanese prayer plaques for this show.  As soon as I arrived I knew I was sick.  I had been fighting a cold and the long flight had made it quite a bit worse.  The first 4 days of that trip I spent in bed in my apartment trying to break a fever.  Finally I broke down and went to the hospital.  They fixed me up nicely with pharmaceuticals.  Sadly not the first time I have been to the hospital in Japan.  After 16 years of travel, shit happens and you end up at the Tokyo emergency room.  For those first days my friends kept asking me to go to dinner or lunch.  Instead I mostly ate fruit and convenience store food during that time, supplemented with “Freshness Burger” since it was downstairs from my apartment.  Can’t eat that stuff ever again now.  When I felt better, I wondered how many good meals I had missed out on.  Luckily my buddy Blunt called, and said we should go get dinner to make up for lost time.  I had no idea that it would mean eating 3 separate dinners in one evening.  We had ramen, gyoza and eel that night all with substantial alcohol.  We started early around 5 pm at piss alley in Shinjuku. Kabuto has been around for over 50 years.  My good friend Hooky remembers his dad eating there and later he discovered it.  Now Blunt has introduced the white dude to this amazing place.  The grease film that covered every surface is difficult to describe.  It’s as if someone had used a spray insulation gun to cover the entire shop in a waxy yellowish brown film.  Grease stalactites hung from the ceiling lights and grill ventilation hood. 

A very well-seasoned charcoal grill produced smoky charred sticks of eel.  We went for the course menu.  15 bucks gets you 10 skewers consisting of skin, spine, liver and guts along with regular eel meat. Pair that with beer and hot sake to stay consistently lubricated. The sauce was so nice.  Deep black, smokey with a nice helping of chicken fat.  The crust on the bucket indicated it had been the pot of black gold in this place for well over a decade.  During earthquakes, the sauce bucket is the first thing an owner runs out the door with.  Sorry kids, you are on your own.  Through the curtain in the back I could see plates stacked with skewers of raw eel parts.  The owner’s son was like a machine, a machine that impales eel on to bamboo sticks at a comfortably relaxed rate.  My favorite was the liver.  It complimented the cigarette smoke haze and conversation about where to eat our second dinner of the night.

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